Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Game 2015: A 9-3 Shootout: Learning Lessons

OK, it was only a Spring Game.  We're playing ourselves... but, let's break down a bit what the ES witnessed at Michigan State's 2015 Spring Game:  the ES made it for the second half, then watched the first half a few times on the BTN the last few days.  No, there was NOT 48,000 as announced... maybe 38,000?  Anyhow...

OFFENSIVE QUESTION MARKS????  Let's get real.  The only reason the ES really wanted to come to the game was to see who the hell was going to run the ball for the Big Green this fall. 

Answer is either #28 Madre London, or #24 Gerald Holmes.  Both are hard runners, very similar style to former RB Nick Hill (read: straight ahead, bullish, can't read holes, trip over people) but a bit bigger - not at all like Jeremy Langford (total stud).  Each remind the ES of a more stoudt Javon Ringer, with much less speed than Jeremy Langford, LeVeon Bell, or Javon Ringer:  London is 6-1/220, Holmes is 6-0/218.  Holmes broke out from the middle of the line for a nice 50-yard run in the third quarter... and was caught from behind.   I see both backs servicing MSU throughout the year, and maybe even we'll find a third for committee work. 

The OL didn't necessarily perform great on either side; London's 70 yards (other than the 50 yarder) and Holmes' 48 yards were tough sledding against a rough DL (see below).

MSU's Tyler O'Connor vs. the White
Passing game =  Where was Damion Terry?  Too bad he didn't play with an undisclosed injury.  Otherwise, we saw dropped passes and some poor passes.  Tyler O'Conner (Green team) looked like Carol O'Connor, as if he was sunk in a lazy boy with a beer and a cigar.  Didn't play well.  At all.  Macgarett Kings didn't help, with a few timely drops right in his hands.  A pass to DE Shalique Calhoun was cute and didn't tell us anything.  Total yawner.

Connor Cook (White team) certainly looked like the leader and made some decent throws; he was pressured for much of the afternoon, took some sacks (which were whistled, he was not hit).  He has that cannon on his right arm.  But, RJ Shelton and DeAnthony Arnett both dropped a few Cook passes.

DEFENSE WINS THE DAY:  Gimme a break, it was a 9-3 shootout (as prolific as that 14-2 spring game in 2012), with the defensive lines really pushing back the offense for much of the game.  ES was very impressed at the dominating defensive interior, both on the Green side and the White side.  Whenever Cook (White) or O'Connor (Green) could get anything rolling... well, things just fizzled out quick.  

The Spartan defensive ends will be very, very good.  Shalique Calhoun (#89) and Demetrius Cooper (#98) were in the backfield constantly on the pass rush.   They should be.  And, Lawrence Thomas (#8) seems to be getting into the form we expect to be dominant run stopper on the inside. He bottled up the line all day long.   I really like Damon Knox (#93) who is also a load on the inside.  This defensive line is the deepest, and best in the Big Ten.

At LB... will it ever end?  Riley Bullough (#30) really hit the gaps well on run plays.  It was typical hard-nosed Bullough heritage that we saw in the Spring.  Ed Davis (#43) and Darien Harris (#45) also played very well on defense.

Actually, the DBs played well also.  Nick  Tompkins (#32) and Jermaine Edmondson (#39) blanketed wideouts much of the game.  So did anyone in the number 30s, like Arjen Colquhoun (#36).  Gotta give credit to Harlan Barnett.  He really has coached this backfield consistently into one of the best in the country.  These guys are physical, athletic, and they turn around to make plays instead of the face-guarding days of yore.  OK, we're playing ourselves... but there was little criticism with new faces.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  If you like punting (the ES does - he punted in HS), then the Spring Game was a treat.  Dantonio decided to put our new young punk to work, Jake Hartbarger (#25) out of Waterville, Ohio.   With all the defense... well, he punted for BOTH the Green and White, and must've kicked it 10 times in the second half.  Of those, one was a real treat, a beauty of a 55-yard spiral.  Still, lots of clunkers and he needs some work.

FGs were missed beyond 45.  But we hit two of three.  Mike Geiger didn't kick them, as he's already solidified that starting spot as an All-American.   I think it was #24 Kevin Cronin who was 2-3.  Whatever.

Bring on Western Michigan!  Sept 4 in Kalamazoo... see ya at Bell's Brewery on a Friday night, Sept. 4.  

Blocking for O'Connor?  Why bother - Incomplete it is!